Alan L. DurstThe Acrobats 1927

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Artwork details

Alan L. Durst (1883‑1970)
The Acrobats
Date 1927
MediumCedar wood
Dimensionsobject: 590 x 240 x 250 mm
Acquisition Presented by Tate Members 2002
Not on display


During the 1920s Alan Durst made several sculptures of acrobats and tumblers. Like the dancer motif so commonly found in the work of other avant-garde sculptors of the early twentieth century, this subject allowed for considerable formal invention within a clearly figurative idiom. In The Acrobats a naked man carries a naked woman on his shoulders. From this unusual arrangement emerges a sculpture of considerable formal interest. Looking at the sculpture from the side, a rhythmic line rises from the sturdy bent legs of the man through his body and that of the woman. From the front, the zigzag of advancing and receding planes gives it great formal dynamism.
In part, the composition and execution of The Acrobats is indebted to the West African carvings that Durst had seen at the British Museum and elsewhere. There is a clear correspondence, for example, between the massive, stocky legs of the male figure and Fang figurative sculpture. Likewise, the method of carving directly into the block of wood without intermediary stages was associated with primitivised practices. During the 1920s, Durst with Henry Moore (1898-1986), John Skeaping (1901-80), Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) and Maurice Lambert (1901-64), was one of the leading exponents of direct carving in Britain… (read more)

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